U.S. House Speaker John Boehner is set to help raise funds for 5th District Republican candidate Andrew Roraback next week in Hartford. The fundraising boost may help Roraback compete with his opponent Elizabeth Esty and national Democrats, but it also plays into their campaign narrative.
Roraback, a moderate Republican state senator, has been fending off attacks from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee aligning him with conservative national Republicans like Boehner since the day after the Aug. 14 primary.
On Aug. 15 the DCCC released a video titled “Meet Tea Party Republican Andrew Roraback,” which pulled footage from Republican 5th congressional district primary debates during which Roraback faced three opponents who were largely considered more socially conservative than him.
Throughout the campaign Roraback, a fiscal conservative with a moderate voting record on social and environmental issues, has said that he is a “New England Republican” who is willing to break ranks with his party when he doesn’t agree.
But Democrats frequently point to Roraback’s statement that he would vote to keep Boehner as House speaker. Regardless of Roraback’s personal positions, that vote allows national Republicans to continue pursuing their conservative agenda, the reasoning goes.
With Boehner scheduled to fundraise with Roraback in Hartford on Tuesday, the DCCC and the Esty campaign released statements Thursday driving home the same point.
Jeb Fain, Esty’s spokesman, said Boehner was coming to help Roraback because he knows the Connecticut Republican will be another vote to continue his Tea Party agenda. Roraback shares many of Boehner’s position on raising the Social Security retirement age, Fain said.
“While Andrew Roraback would stand with John Boehner and the House GOP’s extreme agenda, Elizabeth Esty will stand up for middle class families, for seniors, and for the Medicare and Social Security benefits they have earned,” he said.
Meanwhile, Stephen Carter, a regional spokesman for the DCCC, released a similar statement saying the Boehner visit confirms what he’s been saying for months:
“That he’ll sell out to the Tea Party Republicans and their unpopular agenda to end Medicare’s guaranteed benefits in order to fund tax breaks for millionaires,” Carter said.
So why schedule an event that seems to help reinforce your opponents attacks? Chris Cooper, a spokesman for Roraback, said the campaign was just taking the help of their national party, just as Esty has had the support of the DCCC.
“Andrew received an offer from the speaker to help and he needs that help,” Cooper said. “… Elizabeth Esty has had hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of help.”
On Thursday, Cooper released a statement saying the campaign raised $554,605 during the third quarter. Earlier in the week the Esty campaign reported raising more than $650,000 during the same period.
It’s not clear how much money will be raised at the event, which will take place at the Hartford Club. Cooper said the maximum donation was $2,500 and he wasn’t sure if there will be a minimum donation.
Regarding the assertion that Boehner’s presence in Connecticut supporting Roraback is evidence Roraback would be a lackey for Boehner in Congress, Cooper said it was a distortion that cheats the voters out of substantive campaign about the issues.
“Andrew has a history. People who know him know she’s way off target,” he said.
Cooper called Roraback a “bridge-builder,” who’s willing to work with both Republicans and Democrats to solve issues. And while he and Boehner may not be on the same page on every issue, it doesn’t mean he won’t want to work with him to build compromise, he said.
“Andrew has always been the kind of guy who can work with disparate factions and bring people together,” Cooper said.
Last week Roraback held a press conference to call on Esty to stop portraying him as someone he isn’t. The Esty campaign stuck by its assertions about Roraback, saying he called for Social Security changes like raising the retirement age and reducing cost of living adjustments while he was trying to win the Republican primary.
“Now, Senator Roraback is trying to deny he holds these views, calling Elizabeth names in an attempt to hide the truth,” Fain said.
Cooper responded with a statement arguing that Roraback actually called for raising the cost of living adjustment and steadfastly opposed privatization Social Security.
On Wednesday the Roraback campaign began running its first attack ad of the election cycle. The ad focusing on a decade-old video of Esty speaking at a town meeting where she suggested those upset with the results of a property revaluation “are always welcome to move to one of our neighboring towns.”
“That’s right,” the narrator of the 30-second ad says. “Esty told seniors to move out if they can’t afford higher taxes.”
Responding to the ad, Fain said Roraback was trying “desperately” to distract from his policies and priorities, which are wrong for Connecticut.
“He’s hiding from his support for cutting hard earned Social Security benefits by attacking a mom for standing up for public schools in her community,” Fain said. “We’re confident the voters will reject these desperate attacks from a career politician and choose the only candidate in this race who understands the needs of middle class families and who will stand up to protect their hard-earned Social Security and Medicare benefits.”